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Young Bride, Thick Pride: Choosing to Stay

I never excelled in math. 

So the first time someone told me having small kids was when the days dragged and the years flew, it didn’t make sense. 

But I loved it. Exactly! Someone finally understands the weird time warp.

I occasionally feel the same in my marriage. Since working and writing and constantly feeding my people, individual days don’t usually drag. 

But over the years I’ve caught myself in the middle of a particularly rough marriage patch thinking, “How many more years is it going to be like this?”

And then last week I woke up and thought, “How did we get here?”

If you think you have a relatively flawless marriage and I sound like I’m speaking Farsi, this post is not for you. 

If you’re a pushover and never stand up for yourself, this post is not for you.

If you’re a pushy one and think you’re always right, this post is not for you.

But if you deal in reality, deal with pride, and can admit you have issues, welcome to the crazy. It’s not for the faint-hearted, or the cocky. 

It’s for the sinners who might want to quit but choose to stay. 

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1994

When I walked down the aisle, said goodbye to my dad and hello to my husband, I had a whopping twenty years under my belt.

Two. Zero. 

As in, feel free to don a white dress with poofy sleeves and a butt bow, fly to Hawaii, have sex, pay too much for a coconut, fly home, play house in an apartment, share a bank account, get a minimum wage job, and make retirement decisions…

…but you can’t legally have a drink. 

I barely knew how to take care of myself, much less how to coexist with someone of the male species.

  • He came from a spirited family. I came from a mellow one. 
  • He loved Ben & Jerry’s. I stressed about fat.  
  • He listened to U2 and the Gipsy Kings. I hung with Boyz ll Men and DC Talk.
  • He walked around in skivvies. I had a passionate relationship with turtlenecks.
  • He watched explosions with Schwarzenegger. I watched rom-coms with Meg Ryan.
  • He talked of retiring in Mexico. I told him I’d write. 

The opposites attracted, and then the opposites retracted. 

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Fast Forward

This week we celebrated twenty-five years. 

Twenty. Five.

As in, you can don whatever you want, drive to Sedona, have sex, pay too much for a dinner on a creek, drive home, play house in a house, share multiple bank accounts, work a meaningful job, and make new retirement decisions…

… but you can’t go back.

  • Back to the biggest year-one concern revolving around who washed the dishes.
  • Back to Christmas vs. in-laws. 
  • Back to who fed the dog. 
  • Back to dial-up issues.
  • Back to strollers vs. joggers.
  • Back to preschool vs. homeschool. 
  • Back to my ironing board and his surfboard.

Though life seemed simpler at the beginning, we still created messes. Pride made me dig my heels in when he called them fights. 

“It was more like a discussion,” I’d tell a friend.

He looked at me sideways. “It was a fight.”

When we moved to another country, I secretly hoped some of our marital issues would be detained at the border. 

We left our friends and family behind, moved into a 5th-wheel, got slapped with missionary status, listened to roosters at two in the morning and argued about sweeping.

The lessons I learned in Baja changed me. How you can grow close and grow apart at the same time still baffles me, but pride built up and crumbled down more times than I could say, “Que?”

God clearly had a plan for our lives. 

So did satan. 

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Walls

A few times over the years my husband mentioned he appreciates it when I’m vulnerable. That always sounds so strange to me, but I realized I like it when he does the same. 

So I continue to read Brené Brown, psyche myself up and sheepishly share morsels of truth. Being vulnerable breaks down walls, but some humans are certainly skilled with mortar and a trowel. 

When we returned to the States a dozen years later, I secretly hoped some of our marital issues would be detained at the proposed wall. It wasn’t built yet, so we rolled them in bubble wrap and brought them back. 

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The D-Word

Barring affairs or abuse, divorce has never been an option. Not at the rocky beginning, not in the messy middle, and not now. 

Forgive me if I’m about to offend you, but splitting because you just can’t get along is a cop out. Irreconcilable differences means you don’t think your problems can ever be worked out. Ever.

Not with therapy, not with books, not with prayer… nothing. And that’s exactly what satan wants us to believe. That mentality also robs God of his power. 

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the U.S. claims the third highest divorce rate in the world. Not exactly a record to be proud of. 

So what’s a couple with hefty differences to do?

  • Marriage Conference: listen to speakers, learn a ton, use your workbook.
  • Marriage Retreat: put down your devices and turn toward each other.
  • Counseling/Therapy: I thought it was for the weak. Now I know it’s for the smart. 
  • Read The Road Back To You: better than taking a test, it’s a great introduction to the Enneagram. It’s an ancient personality type system with uncanny accuracy in describing how humans are wired, both positively and negatively.

  • Then read The Path Between Us: an Enneagram journey to healthy relationships.

One of these books is in our mailbox and one is on our Amazon cart. I look forward to learning more about our tendencies so I can understand why my husband’s lack of details makes me loco, and why my changing plans makes his eyes bug. 

We have a ways to go, but at least we’ve figured out the dishes. 

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Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (NLT)

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What has worked for you? Any marriage breakthroughs that changed the way you live? I’d love to read your ah-ha moment in the comments!

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8 Responses to Young Bride, Thick Pride: Choosing to Stay

  1. Great post. And congrats on 25! We’ll be celebrating 18 this February.

    It’s so crazy that I met my husband on a cruise of all places and he wasn’t saved, yet. 😉

    When we got married, we took the marriage test beforehand about ones expectations of your future spouses’ reactions to issues and surprisingly, the lowest score we got was a weak strength. Yeah us! We also got married when we were in our late 20’s, which helped as you’ve already figured out for the most party who you are. But right after getting married, I’d expected Mike to get a job with a future goal to allow me to stay home as a mom. But he just wanted to do something he enjoyed, which was helping people get an exercise routine via personal training. Unfortunately, it was solely a commission paid job that involved sales which he felt majorly uncomfortable doing, and though he is muscular, he’s naturally thin, so that didn’t inspire anyone to approach him let alone get advice for working out. His clients became mostly the elderly… so besides getting a free gym membership, and being out evenings (hello lonely dinners for me), his income wasn’t sustainable. Needless to say, I was like, what?!? My example was my father working so my mom could be home and take care of us. A year or so later, he realized that too as our debt rose, and went back to school to tap into his GI bill, and searched for a higher paying job. He eventually landed a nice job, complained about how he was paid way to much to do what he was doing, to later getting laid off, to get a low paying data processing job, the eventually getting an entry level state job (“hi” little above minimum wage). My income did similar ups and downs, too. Lots of learning experiences. Then throw in a few kids… lol. I love how God doesn’t give you all the whammies at one time and promises to give you what you can handle.

    But through other experiences, God had us both read personality books, similar the enneagram, that helped us understand our weaknesses and strengths, and how to work together as a couple. And each season of our married life has challenged us, and grown us up. We’ve discovered that God gives the grace right before a difficult time. We’ve been through a lot of challenges, more so than most, but clung to each other and Jesus to get through them, and continue to grow through them.

    But the one thing I needed to realize was I couldn’t expect Mike to meet all my needs. He couldn’t do it. As I couldn’t meet his either. I need to look to Jesus to meet my needs as does he. Also we take time out of each day to talk and make sure we’re on the same page, as that’s so important. And we both are listening to God and spending time daily reading and praying. I’m fortunate that Mike wants peace as do I, and I’m respectful not to be pushy as I could abuse that since I’m naturally more outgoing. It’s a dance. But it’s mostly Jesus and his grace that’s sustained us.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Wow, Brenda… great words! Sounds like you could use this as a springboard for a marriage article someday. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and for your honesty. It’s a dance for sure! I like how you and Mike take time each day to talk and make sure you’re on the same page. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the daily grind and end up like ships passing in the night. Press on, friend!

  2. When Jim and I married, we pledged to each other 40 good years. That sounded longer than “till death do us part”. Somewhere in our 15th year, I needed us to talk. When I said as much, his response was, “Do you want a divorce?”! Where did that come from? We also pledged to never use the “D” word. We wound up going to a Marriage Encounters weekend. It was good and gave us the shot in the arm we needed (for a while). Then we lived life and hung in there with good moments dotted by difficult ones.

    The next thing we knew we were approaching that 40th year realizing it would get here before “till death do us part.” So we took a two week cruise around Italy. We did a renewal of vows aboard the ship–flowers, champagne, cake et al. Another great “shot in the arm”.

    Now we are at 52 and counting. We have taught several marriage classes. The key has always been a faithful God (even when we have not done our part to be faithful to Him). We have recognized over time that we are uniquely different so we needed to stop trying to make the other “see it our way” (interpretation–do it my way). The Word is very clear about male and female being created in His image. We and our differences exist to make God more knowable. The covenant union between a man and wife provides a tangible picture of what a relationship with God is all about. I once read that forgiveness and grace are as necessary to a marriage as breathing air is to life. Those are just two of God’s qualities that we are supposed to demonstrate.

    Do we still fall short of God’s perfect design? The answer is a resounding yes especially when you consider that I still roll my eyes behind Jim’s back when he frustrates, irritates, or annoys me! I am working on that.

    Eight years ago one of the assignments we gave the couples in our marriage class was to draw up a marriage covenant statement. We did one too. It sits on the book case right next to the framed pictures from our wedding day and our 40th renewal day. It is a good reminder that there is more to our union than just the two of us. It is a good reminder of God’s plan for marriage, for our marriage.

    • Fifty-two and counting?! Wow–congratulations! Forgiveness and grace… amen to that. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Sherry. I always love learning from those who are a little farther down the path.

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